Remember when all you needed for a new online startup business was a domain name and cheap hosting? $30 down and you had a platform on which to start building your empire!
But that was… erm… yeah… 20 years ago. Wow! That makes me feel old.
And I guess none of us REALLY wants to go back to those days. Cheap it may have been, but it was also time-consuming and clunky. Building your website in HTML, installing a cheap autoresponder on your server, trying to interpret your visitor data from that baffling analytics program that came with your hosting…
Everything was complicated to learn, needed a lot of attention to stay operational, and none of it offered a fraction of the amazing functionality we see in modern ecommerce systems. These days you can whip up an impressive commercial website in just a few days, with all the bells and whistles, using a point-and-click interface.
It feels like we’re reaching a tipping point.
There are now so many online business tools that are considered essential, starting a new enterprise is becoming pretty expensive. It’s still only a fraction of what it costs to start a brick-and-mortar business, but we’re well past the point where you can fund your startup with the contents of the kid’s piggy bank.
A website and an autoresponder are no longer enough to get you started. If you’re going to be competitive in your market, you also need:
- Video hosting,
- A helpdesk,
- A membership portal,
- Comprehensive analytics,
- An affiliate management program,
- A shopping cart,
- A campaign manager to keep track of everything, and, of course,
- A bullet-proof cloud-based backup system to ensure everything is protected.
Maybe you can do without one or two of those things in the short-term. But eventually, once your customer base starts to grow, you WILL need to bolt this functionality onto your business.
Yes, you can find amazing third-party applications for all of those things that will streamline the setup process, but the costs really start to add up. Almost every tech company now runs using the “software as a service” (SaaS) model, which means paying regular subscriptions for continued access.
These aren’t just startup costs – these are ongoing expenses. So, you’d better have some deep pockets or you’re going to have to start making a lot of sales fast just to cover the overhead.
In an ideal world, you’d go out and buy the gold-standard software in every category and power your business into the stratosphere. But, in reality, that could easily run to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.
And price is only one problem that must be addressed…
Try Not to Burn the House Down
Plugging software into your business from a variety of different sources can also get complicated VERY quickly. The digital tools that power your business can’t run in isolation; they need to be able to talk to each other. And while every SaaS worth its salt will provide you with an API to link it to your current setup, you’re very much dependent on every company providing you with a flawless experience and notifying you when a change takes place.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that this is rarely, if ever, the case.
And even when a company gets it right, the smallest API change can impact your entire setup and leave you scrambling to update at your end before your entire funnel comes crashing down!
The more software applications you add to your setup, the worse things get.
It’s a bit like that multi-outlet adaptor behind your television. Initially, you figure it will just be for your flat-screen, your game console and maybe a cable box. But then you add a second game console. And a lamp. And a phone charger. And maybe a nice subwoofer.
Before you know it, you’ve got so many plugs fighting for space that a worrying amount of heat seems to radiate from the corner of your room, and you can’t shake the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing ignites.
This is why we’re reaching a tipping point.
Software applications that used to be considered a luxury are now essentials. A few years ago, for instance, video hosting was just for the elite. Now video is an essential part of any online business. If you don’t, at the very least, have one video showcasing your product, you look like the one store in the mall that STILL doesn’t take credit cards.
As much I hate to say it, I could go on.
We could talk about the security implications of having multiple points of access to the different elements of your business. Or maybe the headache of having to use multiple logins to access everything. Or what happens when a particular provider decides to change their business model (or shut down completely) and you have to find something to replace it.
Maybe we’re not REACHING a tipping point… maybe we’re ALREADY sliding down the other side of the mountain.
Okay, enough pot-stirring. Let’s talk about a solution…
Unification is NOT a Dirty Word
What if there was a way to access all the functionality your online business needs, without having to endure exorbitant costs and without overloading your metaphorical multi-outlet?
What if that required you to let go of an outdated notion?
Are you for up for it?
Good – here goes…
For a long time, the prevailing theory has been that, when you select a software application, you should use the company that SPECIALIZES in that technology. If you need an autoresponder, you should find a company that is expert in that field. If you need a video host, you should find a company that plows all of its resources into video. If you need a membership portal, you should find a solution that lets you create every possible membership site setup imaginable.
It’s the “premier provider” concept; a company that specializes in one field is always going to be better at that discipline than everyone else and offer the most advanced features.
But this idea completely misunderstands how most businesses operate!
Selecting software providers under the ‘premier provider’ theory is not only more expensive (as we’ve already considered), it also means you end up with a dozen different systems duct-taped together.
What if, instead, you use a UNIFIED system that offers two or more of the software applications you need?
That means fewer systems to bolt together, reduced complexity and (more than likely) reduced costs.
Think of it this way…
If you were going to hire a handyman to look after your house, would you rather have a “jack of all trades” who can fix the vacuum, shampoo carpets, put up shelving, change the oil in your car, and so on, or would you rather have a specialist who can build a washing machine from the ground up but can do LITERALLY nothing else?
It’s the same principle with your business. If your company is absolutely built around delivering video content, then maybe you do need a specialist video host. But if you just want to host some training videos, a sales video and create a video blog once a week, a unified system that includes video hosting is probably going to do you just fine.
The funny thing is that, once you open your mind to this idea, you’ll start to see unified systems all over the place that you previously hadn’t realized were offering this kind of service.
Infusionsoft is a classic example. People tend to think of it as an autoresponder service, but it’s really a unified system that includes an autoresponder AND a customer management system.
Then there’s SnagIt. It’s a great tool for capturing screen-shots, but it also offers a pretty decent image editor that will adequately fill most business owners’ needs.
Or how about Google Analytics that also offers a split-testing system that many business owners don’t even think about using.
Looking into our own business, WebinarJam is a great webinar host, but it also offers fairly comprehensive autoresponder functionality, including a Boolean feature for customizing responses based on your customers’ actions.
And then, of course, there’s Kartra, which offers a whole bunch of business and marketing tools in one unified system, including web page building, campaign management, autoresponders, video hosting, customer helpdesk, affiliate management, shopping cart and membership portals.
If unification has a bad name, it’s only because there’s a faulty perception that every business needs access to every advanced feature in existence. In reality, most businesses can operate very comfortably on a unified system that offers solid, straightforward functionality.
Unification is Simplification
Here’s your goal for this week…
If you’re a new business owner making a shopping list of software applications that you need, look for unified systems – with good reviews – that offer multiple functions. (Naturally, I hope you’ll be putting Kartra on your shortlist).
This will minimize your start-up costs and keep the building process simple.
If you’re an existing business owner, review the software you currently use and explore whether any of them offer additional functions you didn’t know existed. It may be that you can activate some of these secondary functions and reduce or even remove your reliance on so many different third-party systems.
You could even go a step further and consider replacing most, if not all, of your software applications with a single unified system. The cost savings will likely be considerable. (Contact us for advice on how to migrate your business set-up to Kartra.)
Whatever stage your business is in, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you could happily use less stress in your life.
Many multi-purpose or unified systems are no longer basic or light on functionality. It’s finally possible to manage most of all of your business from a single system.
And fewer systems to manage means fewer headaches.
Now is the time to act. Remember that tipping point. Every new software application you attach to your business increases the chances of everything going up in smoke. Eventually, reducing your reliance on multiple systems is going to become essential. The sooner you take action to change your setup, the easier it will be to manage and the faster you’ll see increased profits.